TOUCH-AND-GO ON TRADES

AS DEAD­LINE NEARS IN WEIRD SEA­SON, CUBS DON’T KNOW ALL THE SELL­ERS, BUT THEY DO KNOW PEN HELP IS A PRI­OR­ITY

Chicago Sun-Times - - CUBS BEAT - BY RUS­SELL DORSEY | rdorsey@sun­times.com | @RUSS_DORSEY1

Don’t look now, but MLB’s trade dead­line is now nine days away. The Cubs are al­most half­way through their 60-game sched­ule and find them­selves in the driver’s seat in the Na­tional League Cen­tral and in a great po­si­tion to make a trip to the post­sea­son.

While they fight to­ward a spot in Oc­to­ber, the trade mar­ket for pos­si­ble re­in­force­ments is still start­ing to take shape.

“Still too early to be able to char­ac­ter­ize the whole mar­ket with any cer­tainty, but there’s cer­tainly a hand­ful of teams that have picked the di­rec­tion based on their stand­ing,” Cubs team pres­i­dent Theo Ep­stein said. “[There are] prob­a­bly fewer sell­ers than typ­i­cal for 10 days away, but we’ll see how that evolves. I still think this is the num­ber of teams weigh­ing more fac­tors than usual with some of the un­cer­tainty.”

Ep­stein noted that be­cause of this year’s ex­panded play­off for­mat, more teams are in hold­ing pat­terns and try­ing to make a run.

The Cubs’ bullpen has found its foot­ing in the last few weeks as sev­eral re­liev­ers have set­tled into their roles af­ter a rocky first two weeks. A sta­bi­lized pen helps, but it still will be the Cubs’ big­gest need at the dead­line.

“I think we have an idea of what we’d like to do and dif­fer­ent ar­eas we’d like to ad­dress and the dif­fer­ent ways that we could go about that,” Ep­stein said. “I think a num­ber of teams know that re­sources or fi­nan­cial flex­i­bil­ity is gonna be a fac­tor, and that has to be weighed into the pic­ture.

“One thing we’d like to do, with Brad Wieck be­ing hurt al­most the en­tire year and Kyle Ryan be­ing the only lefty, [is] if we can get some help. Doesn’t have to nec­es­sar­ily be a left-handed re­liever, but some­one who can get left­ies out that would help us sta­bi­lize the pen some more. But cer­tainly [I’m] en­cour­aged by the way it’s trend­ing.”

Bullpen help will be on sev­eral teams’ to-do lists, so as the Cubs look out­side, they might also con­sider a few so­lu­tions within the or­ga­ni­za­tion. Hard-throw­ing left­handed prospects Brai­lyn Mar­quez and 2020 sec­ond-rounder Burl Car­raway are both in the team’s 60-man player pool and could be pos­si­ble re­in­force­ments.

The Cubs haven’t been afraid to pull the trig­ger at the trade dead­line in the past, most re­cently ac­quir­ing Nick Castel­lanos from the Tigers last July. Castel­lanos was the Cubs’ best player af­ter the trade, slash­ing .321/.356/.646 with 16 homers and 36 RBI in 51 games be­fore he signed with the Reds in the off­sea­son.

But this year is dif­fer­ent, with a sig­nif­i­cant drop in rev­enues be­cause of the four-month shut­down. That could af­fect the mar­ket.

“There are a lot of years when we know we have an im­pact­ful move or two in us,” Ep­stein said. “It’s just a mat­ter of find­ing it and ex­e­cut­ing on it. This year, the moves might be more com­pli­men­tary, and there might be more in­ter­nal so­lu­tions. In the game over­all, you might still see those big moves. If there’s a per­fect match and one team’s long-term needs com­ple­ment an­other team’s short-term needs, you may see a big trade. But there’s cer­tainly ob­sta­cles to that in­dus­try­wide and in our sit­u­a­tion.

“We’re not lim­it­ing our­selves to dream­ing about big names. We’re cer­tainly open to it, if it were to hap­pen. We’ve done pretty big trades at the dead­line most years, but the smaller moves where you get in­cre­men­tally bet­ter in a cou­ple of dif­fer­ent ar­eas, es­pe­cially to ad­dress cer­tain needs, can make a big dif­fer­ence as well.” ✶

JONATHAN DANIEL/GETTY IM­AGES

The White Sox’ Adam En­gel steals sec­ond base as the Cubs’ Javy Baez tries to catch his bal­ance Fri­day night.

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